Kolkata: Old buses and trucks banned from city streets (Is this really the way to go?)

The Bengal government has acted to implement the High Court’s decision to check road accidents and cut down pollution levels. Vehicles more than 15 years old to be taken off Kolkata’s streets. Local environmentalists cheer. World Streets is not quite so sure. The ban applies to about 2,500 buses, 500 mini buses and 6000 taxis, roughly one fourth of the total number in the city. We invite discussion and updates. (Kindly read Comments below for more.)

1. Finally, Bengal govt drives out Kolkata’s old wheels

Source: IBNLive. http://ibnlive.in.com/news/finally-bengal-govt-drives-out-kolkatas-old-wheels/96692-3.html

Kolkata: Ten years, 14 hearings and 10 extensions of deadlines — that’s what the Bengal government has taken to implement the Calcutta High courts decision to check road accidents and cut down pollution levels.

Vehicles more than 15 years old will now be taken off Kolkata’s roads from July 25.

The ban would apply to about 2,500 buses, 500 mini buses and 6000 taxis, roughly one fourth of the total number in the city.

“I know that the public will face difficulties once the illegal vehicles are seized. But we can’t help. Despite repeated reminders the operators have not replaced the old vehicles,” says Bengal’s Transport Secretary, Sumantra Choudhury.
In the past few days, many accidents killed several people on Kolkata’s roads.

In many cases it was found the vehicles were old and that the owners were resorting to illegal means to keep them running. Yet private transport operators have threatened to oppose the ban

“All unions are uniting to protest against this decision. We have no other alternative,” says President, Bengal Bus Syndicate, Swarnakamal Saha.

The state government is also impressing upon bus operators to do away with the commission system for staff on ticket sales and replace it with monthly incentives in an effort to clamp down on rash driving.

Transporters say replacing old buses with the new is a long process and withdrawing large number of buses will create havoc and public discomfort in the days to come.

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Source 2:
Green activists happy, vehicle owners worried over ban order

Source: Thaindian News, http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/uncategorized/green-activist-kolkata_10073716.html

Kolkata, July 20 (IANS) The city’s green activists have welcomed with a sigh of relief the Calcutta High Court (HC) judgement banning commercial vehicles, registered on or before January 1, 1993, from plying in the metropolis. But for thousands of bus and minibus owners, the order Friday came as a shock as they claimed that about 80 percent of commercial vehicles will be off the roads once the judicial directive comes into effect March 31, 2009.

“The judgement is very unfortunate for thousands of bus and minibus owners and many other people who are directly or indirectly involved in this profession. We are planning to move the Supreme Court soon after getting a copy of the High Court order,” Sadhan Das, West Bengal Joint Council of Bus Syndicate (WBJCBS) general secretary, told IANS.

He said about 70 percent of the total vehicles plying in Kolkata and its three adjoining districts – South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas and Howrah – are commercial.

“If these vehicles are banned due to the age factor, the total public transport system would collapse. Commercial vehicles can only be banned if they are not maintaining the standard pollution norms, according to the Environment Protection Act,” he said.

The Calcutta High Court banned commercial vehicles registered on or before January 1, 1993 from Kolkata and its outskirts. All auto rickshaws would also have to convert either to compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) mode. All autos with two-stroke engines have to be phased out by the year-end.
The HC judgement came following a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by a green crusader Subhash Dutta in March 2007.

“We have called representatives from all commercial vehicle organisations and will hold a meeting next week to take the final decision. We are hopeful of getting justice from the Supreme Court,” said Swarnakamal Saha, Kolkata Metropolitan Bus and Minibus Association member.

He said: “About 15 lakh (1.5 million) vehicles, of which over 80 percent are commercial, ply across 1,450 km of total roads in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA).”

But green activist Dutta is gung-ho over the judgement.

“It’s a very good judgement to reduce the city’s pollution level but we, the green activists, now will have to ensure that the order is carried out properly. The judgement covered most of the major points of the litigation such as ban on old commercial vehicles and using adulterated fuel,” Dutta told IANS.

He said that the average speed of cars in Kolkata is only 5 km per hour.

“A two-member committee will be formed soon to monitor the situation and find out if the order is being carried out properly,” he said.

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World Streets has serious reservations concerning this kind of shotgun approach. The intentions are excellent, the ardor is real, but is piecemeal action really the best way to deal with this issues. We ask and invite you to respond. (Thanks to Richard Risemberg for the heads-up.)